Row over Nepal PM KP Oli's meeting with India's R&AW chief

Friday 23rd October 2020 08:48 EDT

Nepal’s embattled Prime Minister, K P Sharma Oli, came under fresh attack, including from three former Prime Ministers and his own party leaders, for meeting Indian R&AW chief Samant Kumar Goel without keeping them in the loop. Calling it “improper” and “objectionable”, former Prime Ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is also executive chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, former Deputy Prime Ministers Bhim Bahadur Rawal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha held separate group meetings, and some took to social media to criticise Oli. They asked him to provide details of the meeting with the R&AW chief that lasted more than two hours, almost till midnight Wednesday.

Goel and team had flown to Kathmandu on a special flight. They were said to have also met Leader of Opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Madhes-based leader Mahantha Thakur separately during their nearly 24-hour stay in Nepal where there is fresh political turmoil. The R&AW chief’s visit, ahead of Indian Army chief General M M Naravane’s scheduled visit next month, comes at a time when India and Nepal are attempting to repair ties, severely strained following escalation of the boundary dispute and Nepal’s publication of a map this summer to include areas of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Prachanda, it is learnt, told his followers that though he has the responsibility to keep the party unity intact, Oli’s “misdeeds” may compel him to take the government to task. “Such a meeting, keeping the party and the ministry concerned in absolute dark, calls for an explanation from the Prime Minister,” Prachanda told a gathering that included two ministers.

Khanal and Madhav Nepal, it is learnt, also said such a meeting between the Prime Minister and the R&AW chief “in a clandestine manner was detrimental to national interest”. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s press advisor, Surya Thapa, said Goel had a “courtesy meeting” with Oli. He said Goel had underlined smooth Nepal-India relations, resolving pending problems through dialogue, and continuation of mutual cooperation. He did not elaborate further.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister and NCP central secretariat member Narayan Kaji Shrestha wanted to know the nature of Goel’s visit – if it was in personal or official capacity – and the agenda of the discussion with the Prime Minister. Bhim Bahadur Rawal, former Defence Minister and member of the party’s standing committee, said the timing and manner of the meeting was “not appropriate”.

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